COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows attempted to hide his COVID-19 diagnosis and the White House outbreak
  • Mark Meadows deliberately tried to hide the White House coronavirus outbreak from the public, according to an investigation by the Washington Post.
  • The White House chief of staff not only tried to keep his own diagnosis a secret but also instructed at least one fellow advisor who wanted to disclose an infection not to, an unnamed official told the Post.
  • The same official said that Meadows told. them that they were "under no obligation to tell the press or the public that Joe Schmo, who works in the White House, has tested positive."
  • An aide to Meadows told the Washington Post that it was "false" that he ever threatened to fire White House Medical Unit doctors if they decided to disclose any information to the media or the public.
Mark Meadows attempted to keep the White House coronavirus outbreak a secret, even threatening to fire doctors if they leaked any information about it to the public, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The White House chief of staff went above and beyond to hide information of the outbreak as the virus started to spread rapidly among his team in the fall, several officials told the Post.

... Meadows has also been described by other officials "as outright hostile in his denial of the virus and punitive toward colleagues who sought to follow public health guidelines or be transparent," the Post reported. ... Several people told the Post that Trump has "given up" on the pandemic and that he didn't expect to go on for as long as it has. Paul A. Offit, a member of the FDA's vaccine advisory council, said: "He's a salesman, but this is something he can't sell. So he just gave up. He gave up on trying to sell people something that was unsellable." Olivia Troye, a former Pence adviser who resigned in the summer told the Post: "I would love to say that I'm shocked, but I'm not. People are still dying every day...To see a sitting president directly refuse to help during a crisis is just flabbergasting to me."
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 17.5 million Americans tested positive for the virus and more than 300,000 have died, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University. In the last week alone, nearly 1 out of every 200 Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, Axios reported.

Countries cut UK off as Johnson holds crisis meeting on new coronavirus variant
The United Kingdom has been cut off from much of the world after a new, potentially faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus surged across southeast England.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant "may be up to 70% more transmissible,” but top health officials cautioned that this has not been definitively demonstrated. England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the new variant was responsible for 60% of new infections in London, but stressed there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant is more deadly.

However, just an increase in transmission -- if true -- would be enough to cause major problems for hospitals already strained during the pandemic.

There's always a worry that a vaccine won't work if a virus mutates significantly, but Whitty said the vaccines should still work.

The news has sparked travel chaos in the UK, as many countries halted arrivals from the country in effort to contain the new variant from spreading further. A 48-hour ban on all travel from the UK imposed by France from midnight has been particularly disruptive, as it includes freight trucks traveling through the Eurotunnel under the English Channel. Johnson is due to chair an emergency meeting about the restrictions today.

Meanwhile, the fast spread of the new variant of the virus has forced the UK government to impose tighter restrictions on London and southeast England over the festive period.

Chilean president handed $3,500 fine for mask-less selfie with stranger on beach
Chile has strict rules on mask wearing in all public places and violations are punishable with sanctions that include fines and even jail terms.

Pinera apologized then turned himself in shortly after the selfie surfaced on social media in early December.

The president explained he had been walking alone along the beach near his home in the posh Chilean seaside town of Cachagua when a woman recognized him and asked for a photo together.

The selfie shows the president and the woman standing very near to one another on a sunny day, neither wearing masks.

The gaffe-prone Pinera was previously photographed at a pizza party on the night protests over inequality broke out in Santiago last year. He was later seen posing for pictures at the square that had been the hub of the demonstrations after the pandemic forced protesters to stay at home.

The virus peaked in Chile in May and June, during the southern hemisphere winter, then subsided through November. Cases are on the rise again, however, prompting new restrictions and quarantines.

Trump should take a COVID-19 shot to build confidence in the vaccine among his supporters, the White House coronavirus testing czar says
  • The White House's COVID-19 testing czar said Sunday that President Trump should take a COVID-19 shot to generate confidence in the vaccine among Republicans.
  • "I would encourage the President to get the vaccine for his own health and safety, and also to generate more confidence among the people who follow him so closely," Adm. Brett Giroir told ABC News.
  • Polls suggest about half of Republicans could reject a shot.
  • Trump tweeted on December 14 that he wasn't scheduled to take the vaccine, but he "looks forward to doing so at the appropriate time."
  • Trump reportedly rejected leading the US vaccine drive, instead letting Vice President Mike Pence take the spotlight. Pence received the first dose of Pfizer and BioNTech's shot Friday.
Trump was waiting on the White House medical team's recommendation, CNN reported Wednesday. An anonymous official told CNN that the President was still experiencing the effects of the antibody cocktail he was given after testing positive for the virus on October 2.